the thing about getting from Portland to Boston

The Thing About Getting From Portland to Boston

The thing about getting from Portland to Boston in the middle of a global pandemic, in spring, is that while the distance is not long, it certainly took us a while. Made more complicated by the fact that we could have driven the entire distance in one day but we chose not to.

The first interesting thing to note when we left Portland is that we drove through Biddeford, which at the time, we knew nothing about but went literally slack jawed when we saw the beautiful old mill buildings and the waterfall that runs through the center, the waterfall that was once used to help power the mills. I found out later that one of my favorite Christmas Movies was filled here. Holly Star is an independent film that used to be on Netflix but I think it has since been taken down.

We drove through to Newburyport in a very cozy inn and had a delicious hot meal in a pub a short distance from the inn. And I got hardly any pictures of the entire experience because the weather was so bad, it was dark and raining and cold and we mostly just played cards in our rooms and drank tea.

Our stop the next morning was to see Gloucester I think because we wanted to have high tea. But as we got closer the weather got worse, we not rain, and wind and then some snow. And by the time we got to town either everyone had shut down due to weather, or due to covid. So we settled on finding breakfast and heading toward Boston. Though funny enough finding breakfast even proved to be challenging, likely because of one or both of the reasons mentioned above. We eventually found a worker type diner that was serving breakfast, and once again it was delicious and cheap. I highly recommend Zeke’s Place if you are in the area, they were so kind.

The next day we headed back out toward Boston, stopping of course in Salem. For one reason and one reason only. To visit Max Dennison’s house. In reality I wanted to see all the filming locations for Hocus Pocus, but as it turns out Salem is not the nice small town portrayed in the movie. Rather it is a terrifying tourist trap town with too much traffic. It is one of the few places I can say with confidence I don’t want to return. I am sad though that the House of Seven Gables was closed (covid) because I would have loved to see the interior. Instead I just did my usual sneaking about the premises trying to get a good picture.

The thing I didn’t know about Salem going into the visit was that it is a suburb of Boston. We decided we needed a slower pace so we moved on to the Boston Airport to return our rental car, stow our bags at our hotel and catch the train downtown. And you would think I was kidding but there was legitimately less traffic in Boston than Salem.

Admittedly I didn’t love Boston the first day. The weather held strong and by the time we figured out how to use the train, buy tickets, get downtown, hit a couple book stores, it was dark, I was soaked and frozen. I also got stalked by a women on presumably a large about of drugs that kept just shouting “CAPE COD”. I was in fact wearing a hat I bought earlier in the trip that said Cape Cod on it, but it wasn’t the best welcome into a new city. Luckily the next day turned out to be beautiful and I truly did love Boston. But more on that next time.

So that was our slight misadventure, that really did turn out wonderful getting from Portland Maine to Boston. And that concludes the thing about getting from Portland to Boston, next time I will wrap the trip up with gushing remarks about Boston.

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A few things to do in Portland Maine

A Few Things to do in Portland Maine

There are probably a great many things to do, but we chose only a few things to do in Portland Maine. Just a few. And most of them weren’t actually in Portland. Despite the fact that most of the things we did while in Portland weren’t actually in Portland, we decided it is 100% better than Portland Oregon. And that is coming from someone who lived there for 20 years.

First (few things) to do in Portland Maine is the Old Port neighborhood. We loved it for both the boat watching and the shopping. The older part of town offers a mix of old buildings and newer boutiques as well as a large variety of restaurants. We were there mid week, off season and during covid so it was extremely quite which suited our needs just fine. Though it seemed like in normal circumstances it was probably very busy with lots of bars for folks that are so inclined to try or all of them.

We spent our time in the city proper in that area exclusively wander around looking at boats, taking pictures and trying to buy t-shirts at any possible fish buying outfit. They were all either out or uninterested in selling them to people who did not directly work for them. The t-shirt saga would continue for most of the rest of the trip. Quite of few of the boutiques were closed, but the book stores were open so much time was spent in them wandering around. I think I brought home more books in my suitcase than I had clothes packed.


The West End neighborhood ate up most of an afternoon for us. Though somehow I didn’t get any pictures. The neighborhood sits on the top of a hill overlooking the Fore River on two sides, and it is the location of some of the most spectacular houses in Boston. It also has a park and walking trial that runs along the rim of the cliff offering unobstructed views. I tried to buy food from a food cart but the lucky fella had sold out within 30 min of opening and was packing up to go home.


Speaking of food, there was a lot of amazing food in Portland Maine but our favorite hands down was Holy Doughnuts. They have some very unique flavors but the selling point for us was sweet potato flour gluten free doughnuts. I have never had a better doughnut in my life. All the flavored offered in the gluten free section were amazing, but the salted dark chocolate was hands down the best. They have a couple locations, but we stuck to the main one given ease of parking and it was on the way to the freeway entrances we needed to talk for our adventures further afield.

Since we were in town for a couple nights we got to take a couple trips further afield. One such adventure was the Fort Williams Park. The park itself is gigantic, but seems to be mostly known for the Portland Head Lighthouse and Goddard Mansions. The Portland Head Lighthouse was completed in 1791 and is the oldest light house in Maine. The lighthouse itself was automated in 1989 and the buildings that had been the operators quarters were converted into a museum. It was of course closed when we were there, but we walked around a bit outside taking in the sun and views.


The Goddard Mansion also with the parks grounds is a short of a walk north along the coast. There was really only a couple large central parking lots so I am not sure if you could save time and effort by driving. Walking seems the best option in my opinion. The house was built for  John Goddard a local lumber baron, not to be confused with John Goddard famous explorer and climber of Mt. Everest. The Goddard family only lived in the house for 50 years though as it was bought by the US Army and operated as housing for military families working at the  fort that was built near by. By the 1960s the house was too expensive to maintain and the city light a controlled fire to burn off any remaining wooden structures. It has been left along and fenced off ever since.

The second day trip we took out of town was up north. We headed up to Bath Maine, in part because of the name, we love England and in part because of its history with ship building. Not sure what I was expecting out the Maine Maritime Museum but it was outstanding. I could have spent all day there between the indoor exhibits and the outdoor which includes original buildings from the wooden shipbuilding enterprises of early North America. It wasn’t for that biting New England spring weather we probably would have spent more time. But it was getting to us, so we shuttled off to enjoy an all day breakfast lunch at The Galley Family Restaurant, which was delightful, local and cheap.

All in all it should probably come as no surprise to anyone that like most places we go, we loved Portland Maine and the outer lying areas that we were lucky enough to visit in the short time we were there. If you are curious about how we got here, we were last in Mystic which you can read about here. And because SEO is annoying and I am lazy, I am going to end this all by repeating  a few things to do in Portland Maine.

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